Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance . . .
– 1 Corinthians 15:1-3

To be gospel-centered is to be Christ-centered. But as it pertains to the pursuit of holiness and obedience to God’s commands we may opt more often for the terminology “gospel-centered,” because without more qualifications, “Christ-centered obedience” can be misconstrued to imply simply taking Jesus as a moral example.

Jesus is our moral example, of course, but the power for enduring, joyful obedience comes not from trying to be like him, but in first believing that he has become like us, that he has died in our place, risen as our resurrection firstfruits, ascended to intercede for us, and seated to signal the finished work of our salvation.

Christ-centeredness properly qualified is truer than true. But many unbelievers have accepted (some of) Jesus’ teaching as the center of their self-salvation projects. Gospel-centeredness, however, tells us in shorter fashion what of Christ to center on: namely, his finished but eternally powerful atoning work.

Christ’s work is not all of Christ, but it is the doorway to all of him.

“[T]he simple focus of my life is to be like Christ. That is why I must let the word about Christ dwell in me richly, as Colossians 3:16 says. That is why I must gaze at the glory of Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18, so that I can be changed into his image. That is why Christ must be fully formed in me, Galatians 4:19. That is why if I say I abide in Him I must walk the way He walked, 1 John 2. I’m to be like Christ. This is the goal of my life.

“So the goal of my life as a Christian is outside of me, it is not in me, it is outside of me, it is beyond me. I am not preoccupied with myself, I am preoccupied with becoming like Christ. And that is something that only the Holy Spirit can do as I focus on Christ. I focus on Him and the Spirit transforms me into His image.

– John MacArthur, Fleeing From Enemies

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One thought on “The Right Kind of Christ-Centeredness”

  1. Wesley says:

    Jared –
    first, let me say how impressed i was with the amount of work you did (and composure you showed) in responding to all those “50 shades of grey” blog comments. Sheesh – talk about kicking the bees’ nest. Very cool that you personally responded to so many and sought to defend both the gospel and the character of Doug.
    Second, thanks for this post today. I think that’s a great distinction to make and can add clarity to some who (as you say) would look to Christ only as Christus Exemplar and forget the Christus Victor. What stood out to me especially in J-Macs’ quote at the bottom was that one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to point us to Christ and lead us into that “beholding” which transforms us. There’s nothing wrong per se then with ‘Christ-centered’ but i agree that ‘gospel-centered’ includes a broader picture of what we mean as the gospel holds the power whereby we can actually be Christ-centered in our lives.
    God’s peace bro –

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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